Chinese sauce tycoon spice up the world
Different from peer companies that focus on the domestic market before expansion overseas, family-controlled sauce giant Lee Kum Kee tapped the US as its first and major overseas market since its establishment.
For 30 years, some 80 to 90 percent of the revenue of the leading Chinese sauce company — headquartered in Hong Kong — is generated overseas, mostly in the United States, said Sammy W.S. Lee, chairman of the company, who is also a member of the National Committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
“We got two production plants in the US, one in New York City and the other in Los Angeles,” Lee said. “One of the purposes of the overseas business is to promote traditional Chinese herbal health products to the people around the world while boosting Chinese cuisines worldwide.”
The company made he added.
Lee said the US will still be the major market for the company in the upcoming years.
Lee Kum Kee was established in 1888 when its founder Lee Kum Sheung invented oyster sauce in Nanshui, Zhuhai, Guangdong province.
As early as 1920, Lee Kum Kee was already expanding overseas. The oyster sauce was the first to gain worldwide popularity.
“We made the best oyster sauce and shrimp paste back then, and due to our world class quality and relative higher cost, the sauces were well-received in overseas markets,” said Lee.
oyster sauce, together with its shrimp paste and other traditional Chinese herbal health products, have been available in 60 countries across the five continents.
Targeting different preferences and flavors all over the world, Lee Kum Kee has introduced various sauces worldwide to continue its legacy of Chinese culinary culture, including the Sriracha Mayo exclusively at retailers throughout Hawaii, to join its line of more than 200 authentic Asian sauces and condiments.
Where there are people eating Chinese food, there are Lee Kum Kee products to be bought. “We hope that our food products can act as culinary ambassadors, bringing the fine art of Chinese cuisine into everyone’s home,” Lee said.
After a reputation built worldwide, Lee Kum Kee more than ever focused on the domestic market, a market with a population of 1.3 billion people.
The food company set up by Sammy Lee’s great-grandfather to manufacture oysterflavored sauce in 1888 is a family business in China, one of the few family businesses that have survived the test of time in the country.
“It’s obvious the China is attaching more significance to family firms, and the contributions made by family businesses,” said Lee.
After some 30 years of development, family businesses in China have accounted for a massive percentage of private economic production, with great contribution to GDP and job creation, according to the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce.
According to the National Center for Private Economy Studies, many family businesses on the Chinese mainland, mostly small and medium-sized corporations located in the eastern coastal provinces, despite their impressive contribution to economic development, are still in the early stage of growth.
However, a small batch of family-owned firms are unaware of their duties and have tarnished the image of family firms, Lee said.
To help those family businesses further gain momentum and even expand their business overseas, Lee has submitted proposals on the social responsibility of family firms for seven years to the CPPCC this year.
Lee said a lot of family businesses in China have a lack of understanding over the social responsibility, while focusing only on the self and short-term interest, which leads to an undesirable reputation in society.
The government should come up with a platform to promote and share experiences of family businesses taking on social responsibility, which can also help the government further understand the current situation, he said.
Sammy W.S. Lee,